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The medieval story of Faust, the scholar, who has reached the end of his life and is unsatisfied with all the knowledge he has acquired and who feels that somehow the essence of life has eluded him. Enter the devil in the form of Mephistopheles, played with vigor and delight in this version of the story by Bryn Terfel. Mephistopheles offers a bargain -- youth, strength, and the material things of life, especially the love of beautiful women, in return for his soul. Faust is sung and acted by an athletic and passionate Roberto Alagna Faust sees a picture of the young and innocent Marguerite, sung in this version by the young and beautiful Angela Gheorghiu. He agrees to the bargain and Gounod's story now focuses on the seduction of Marguerite. With Mephistopheles' help, the complicity of a neighbor, and the absence of Valentin, Marguerite's protective brother who is away with his regiment, Marguerite falls in love with Faust and yields to him. Nine months later, she gives birth to a child and is scorned by her brother and cast out by the villagers and even by the church. There's a magnificent Walpurgis Night scene in the opera during which Faust remembers the innocent Marguerite and determines to find her. She is in prison because she murdered her baby while not in her right mind. She appeals to God for forgiveness and receives it. Faust, for his crime and his bargain, is dragged to Hell by a triumphant Mephistopheles. A grim story with remarkable music and remarkable performances for this version of Gounod's opera from the Royal Opera House in 2010.
Anna Bolena is a tragic opera composed by Gaetano Donizetti in 1830. It tells of the end of Anne Boleyn, the second wife of England's King Henry VIII. The year is 1536 and the setting is Wiindsor Castle. This opera is not part of the standard repertory but has recently been revived. The Metropolitan Opera presented it last year based on a performance from the Vienna State Opera in 2011. The Deutsche Grammaphon recording we will show comes from the Vienna performance Anna Netrebko scores a personal triumph as Anne Boleyn in this magnificent bel canto masterpiece. The beautiful and talented mezzo-soprano, Elina Garanca, sings the role of Jane Seymour, Anne's confidante, betrayer and eventual third wife of Henry the Eighth. Idebrando d'Arcangelo sings commandingly in the bass role of Henry and Dan Paul Dumitrescu is the tenor star in the role of Henry Percy, Anne's fiance before the arrival of King Henry on the scene. Come enjoy a lovely afternoon watching the most wonderful singers in the world enact a bit of history.
Here's a classic for you -- a telecast of Bedrich Smetana's The Bartered Bride, a spirited comedy performed at the Metropolitan Opera in 1978. Set in a country village in the mid-19th century, the opera tells the story of how true love prevails over the combined efforts of ambitious parents and a scheming marriage broker. The work created by Czech composer Bedrich Smetana makes use of many traditional bohemian dance forms such as the polka and the furiant (described as "a rapid and fiery A furiant is a rapid and fiery dance in alternating 2/4 and 3/4 time). This opera, Smetana's second, was part of his quest to create a truly Czech operatic genre. He succeeded and for many years this was the only Czech opera in the general repertory. The story involves a peasant, his wife and their daughter, Marenka (the soprano lead). There's a landowner with a wife and son, Vasek, plus a stranger named Jenik (a tenor, of course). Marenka and Jenik are passionately in love but Marenka's parents want her to marry someone she has never met who turns out to be the younger son of the landowner. There's much dancing and singing including a rousing drinking song ("To beer!") in which the relative merits of love and money vs beer are debated. A contract is drawn up whereby Jenik agrees to renounce Marenka for money but with the condition that no one but the landowner's son will be allowed to wed Marenka. No one knows at this point that Jenik is also the landowner's son by a previous marriage. A travelling circus comes to town with a Spanish dancer, a sword swallower and a dancing bear who collapses after being given too much beer. A replacement is needed and the glamorous Spanish dancer persuades Vasek to play his part. Vasek, excited by the glamor of the circus (and the dancer) no longer wants to marry Marenka. She no longer wants to marry Jenik because of his willilngness to barter her away. There is confusion and alarm when it appears a bear has escaped from the circus and is heading for the village. The bear is revealed to be Vasek who is apparently not ready for marriage. Jenik is revealed to be the landowner's son and true love triumphs. All ends in a celebratory chorus.